The issue of testosterone on the ketogenic diet is quite murky. Some people believe that the low carb way of eating will actually deplete your testosterone levels while others are convinced of the opposite point of view. What’s usually missing from either argument is science backed evidence.
In this article we’ll provide the latest research-based data on just how the keto diet affects testosterone levels in men. We’ll also provide some invaluable tips on how to maximize your testosterone levels while you follow the ketogenic diet way of life.
A Primer on Testosterone
Hormones control everything that you do, from breathing to sleeping. The hormones that are the regulators of everything that makes a man a man are called androgenic hormones. And the most important androgenic hormone is testosterone. It floats around your body, controlling the way that your system works.
The number one function of testosterone is to maintain a healthy sex drive, giving you the ability to reproduce at will. Secondary to that, it is vital to maintaining the traits of manhood. These include the growth of body and facial hair, the register of the voice, the mass of your bones and the amount of muscle mass on your frame. Your level of testosterone always has a lot to do with your level of body fat and the amount of energy that you have.
As well as speeding up protein synthesis to boost the muscle building process, testosterone also counters muscle loss, or catabolism, when the body cannibalizes itself for energy. It also plays a key role in the production of red blood cells.
Testosterone is manufactured primarily in the testes. The small amount that isn’t made in the testes is produced in the adrenal glands, which are situated at the top of the kidneys. Production of “T” is stimulated and controlled by the hypothalamus, which is your brain’s command center. Here’s how the process works . . .
The hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. In response, the pituitary gland secretes two hormones into the bloodstream;
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
These two hormones are known as gonadotropins. They travel through the bloodstream down to the testicles. FSH instructs the testes to produce more sperm, while LH ‘tells’ it to make more testosterone. It does this by stimulating cells within the testes which produce testosterone. These cells are known as Leydig cells.
Leydig cells make testosterone by converting cholesterol into testosterone. The cholesterol either gets pulled in from the bloodstream or is produced by the Leydig cells themselves.
Testosterone that is produced by the Leydig cells is then sent into the bloodstream, where it goes to work to do its magic.
Delving into the Research
All androgens, including testosterone, are derivatives of cholesterol. As you know cholesterol, is found in facts. That’s why a low-fat diet reduces your natural production of testosterone. So, it would seem natural that a high fat diet, such as that found on the keto diet, would increase your testosterone levels.
But, does it really? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
A study on the subject was published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry. It confirmed that a low-fat, high carb diet reduced testosterone levels. In the study, 30 healthy middle-aged males were put on a diet that was 25 percent fat, 57 percent carb and 18 percent protein for a period of sex weeks. They then switched to a higher fat diet (37% fat intake) for a further two weeks.
The results showed that both total and bioactive testosterone levels reduced significantly. The total ‘T’ level went down by 15 percent, with the bioactive level reducing by 12 percent. Once the subjects went back to a high fat diet of more than 40 percent fat content, their testosterone levels returned to normal after two weeks.
The fact that normal (i.e pre-study) levels of testosterone were attained after just two weeks, is a strong indicator that fat does play an important role in natural testosterone production by the body.
In another study, subjects followed either a high fat / low fiber diet or a low fat /high fiber diet for ten weeks then switched over to the other diet. The 43 males were on diets that were either 18.8 or 41 percent fat.
On the high fat diet, the average testosterone levels increased by 13 percent after 10 weeks. Other androgens, such as DHEAS and dihydrotestosterone increased by smaller percentages.
A third study had 30 healthy adult males going on a two-week high fat diet (40 percent) and then switching over to a low fat diet (25 percent) for a further six weeks. Then then went back to the original high fat diet for a further six weeks.
Average total and bioactive testosterone levels decreased by 15 percent and 11 percent respectively after the six weeks of low fat eating. Then, after returning to the high fat diet, they returned to baseline levels.
From the studies we have just considered, it is clear that dietary fat does play a role in the body’s ability to produce androgenic hormones. The problem with the studies as it relates to the keto diet is that they did not reduce carbohydrate levels to the degree that they would be if you were on a ketogenic diet. The studies also had relatively low levels of protein intake.
So, the only real conclusion that we can get from these studies is that a positive correlation exists between fat intake and testosterone levels in healthy men. That would make it logical to assume that the high fat content of the keto diet does, indeed, help to increase testosterone levels.
However, until there are studies that specifically have subjects following a ketogenic diet, we cannot conclusively state that this is the case.
The reality is that the ketogenic diet will not dramatically increase your testosterone levels. The biggest increases seen in the studies we’ve looked at is 15 percent. But there are things you can to maximize testosterone production while on keto.
How to Increase Testosterone on Keto
Smart, keto friendly, supplementation, can help to significantly boost your testosterone levels. Let’s check out what the research reveals on the subject.
A 2012 study out of Rochester, New York investigated low testosterone levels in otherwise healthy men. This was a large study that involved more than a thousand subjects. The aim was to discover the root cause behind the men’s low testosterone count. All of the men had levels that were significantly below the average for men, which is, itself, much less than it was a few generations ago. The researchers were sure that the cause was something beyond the natural decline that comes with advancing age.
What they discovered became a game changer in the testosterone story. As expected, they found that lifestyle choices were certainly contributors to low testosterone levels. Advancing age was another contributor. But they weren’t the main contributing factor.
It was found that all 1077 of the study participants had something in common. Their pituitary glands signaling was faulty. As a result, the pituitary over produced a hormone called prolactin.
Prolactin is a hormone which plays a key role in the process of lactation. The main job that it has is to produce milk in women who have had a baby. But that is not all it does, which is why men produce it, too.
There are actually more than 300 functions that prolactin performs in the human body. It is released into the bloodstream by a process known as exocytosis. A key prolactin regulator is the hormone dopamine.
Dopamine is produced in the hypothalamus, which is situated directly above the pituitary gland. Dopamine slows down the production of prolactin. They, therefore, operate in inverse proportion to one another. When one is high the other is low.
Weird as it might sound, prolactin itself causes the body to produce more dopamine. This produces what is called a negative feedback loop.
Another hormone that is a regulator of prolactin is estrogen. Studies have shown that estrogen boosts the secretion of prolactin from the pituitary. This is particularly the case with pregnant and breast-feeding women.
So, what has all of this go to do with testosterone?
Well, when you have too much prolactin in your body, your testosterone levels will be negatively affected – in fact they will go down!
That is because prolactin acts antagonistically toward testosterone. If prolactin is high, testosterone must be low – and vice versa.
Why is this the case? It all has to do with another hormone which is vital to the production of testosterone. This hormone is called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). It is produced by the hypothalamus.
GnRH is a stimulant of the Leydig cells. It prompts them to produce testosterone. If there is too little GnRH the testes will not be stimulated and testosterone production will be low. The implications of this are profound. There will be a pronounced reduction in virility. In addition, strength and muscle tissue will be negatively affected.
Even worse than these negative effects of testosterone in the body, research has found that high levels of prolactin in men can actually result in men developing breast tissue! Along with this comes anxiety, fatigue and listlessness.
The 2012 study out of Rochester, New York that we referenced earlier concluded that high levels of prolactin were associated with low levels of testosterone. This was new information. Prior to this study the focus had been on toxins, bad nutritional choices and the natural effects of aging. Now it was understood that these were secondary contributors. The main cause of diminished ‘T’ levels in men is elevated levels of prolactin!
With this knowledge in hand, we can further state that the key to increasing testosterone levels is to bring down our levels of prolactin.
So how do we do that?
There are certain herbs that have been found to do exactly that. Let’s consider the five that are the most effective.
Ashwagandha (withania somnifera), has been a popular herbal remedy in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It has traditionally been used to aid in weight loss due to its ability to speed up the metabolism.
Ashwagandha is packed with powerful antioxidants that have a curative effect on the body. Among other things it is known to improve gut problems, digestive trouble and elimination issues. It also possesses antimicrobial properties that boost the functioning of the immune system.
We get a clue as to the testosterone boosting effects of Ashwagandha from its name. The Indian word refers to the odor of a horse, which is one of the most virile creatures on the planet. The Indian people have been using it for centuries as a libido booster and sex drive enhancer. They didn’t know why it worked but now we do.
It turns out that Ashwagandha is great at lowering prolactin levels. As a result of that, it also acts to increase testosterone levels. This has recently been confirmed by a study from India, Subjects were given ashwagandha over a period of 12 weeks. The results were impressive, with a 15 percent reduction in prolactin levels across the board and a corresponding 40 percent increase in testosterone levels.
Mucuna pruriens, is more commonly known as velvet bean. This is a herbal extract which has been clinically shown to enhance the levels of growth hormone in the body. It does this by boosting the production of L-dopa, which is a precursor for the release of growth hormone.
Velvet bean itself contains a significant amount of L-dopa. This works synergistically with tyrosine to boost growth hormone levels. Velvet bean is also well known to enhance the production of dopamine, which as we’ve already seen, inhibits the release of prolactin.
Tribulus terrestris is a herbal extract that comes from Bulgaria. For centuries, the Bulgarians have used it as a natural remedy for impotence and infertility. It was introduced to the United States as a testosterone booster and immediately became popular as a testosterone booster.
However, it has only been recently that researchers have come to understand how Tribulus terrestris works as a testosterone booster. It was found that this herbal extract is able to boost our levels of lutenizing hormone (LH). This is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which regulates testosterone levels. In this way, LH, encourages greater testosterone production.
In one study it was seen that healthy adult males who were given a daily dose of 750 mg of tribulus terrestris increased their levels of lutenizing hormone by 72 percent. Their testosterone levels were enhanced by an average of 14 percent.
Ginseng extract is a well-known adaptogen that has been used for thousands of years to improve health. It is used today as a stress reliever, nootropic and weight loss aid thanks to its ability to speed up the metabolism.
Recent animal studies have shown that ginseng also has the ability to inhibit the production of prolactin. In one study, a daily dosage of ginseng brought down serum prolactin levels in rats by an incredible 50 percent. Further trials will need to be conducted to see if these results are replicated in humans.
Ginkgo Biloba is another herbal extract that has been used for centuries as a nootropic. It has been shown to enhance blood flow to the brain and boost the metabolism. With regard to testosterone, gingko biloba has also been found to boost natural production of dopamine. As we have already found out, dopamine is a potent inhibitor of prolactin.
In one study, gingko biloba was given to male rats for 28 days. At the end of the study period researchers noted a significant increase in Leydig cell production nd a matching decrease in prolactin levels.
Dopamine levels were also elevated. All of this led to an increase in testosterone levels.
Maca root is another adaptogen herb. It originates in South America and has been used for hundreds of years to enhance virility in men. In modern times it has also become popular as a natural remedy for high stress levels.
Maca root’s ability to boost testosterone production lies in its dopamine raising properties, which inhibit the production of prolactin.
Three Foods Guaranteed to Surge Your Testosterone
- Oyster Extract – Oysters are a fantastic source of zinc, which is essential for raising testosterone levels. If you have low zinc levels, your body will produce more estrogen – and, as you know, that’s a female hormone!
- Protein Powder – Protein builds and repairs body tissues, including muscle tissue. It is, therefore, vital to boosting your testosterone levels. Its job is to accelerate muscle growth by rebuilding stressed muscles after vigorous exercise. Get extra protein by downing a whey protein smoothie to get fast absorbing protein into your body quickly. Use it to get your protein intake up to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
- Pomegranate – According to one study, pomegranates were able to increase testosterone levels by an average of 24%. Pomegranates increase blood flow, and increase nitric oxide production. Pomegranates are also anti-estrogen because they have a limiting effect on the aromatase enzyme which converts testosterone to estrogen.
Is Your Smartphone Killing Your Testosterone?
Over the past 50 years, there has been a significant drop off in men’s average sperm count. However, that drop off has skyrocketed in the last 20 years.
What accounts for it?
Well, what has mirrored this decline in testosterone levels since the mid-1990s? We’ve embraced computer technology – big time. In fact, most people in the Western world spend the majority of their waking hours either with a laptop on their groin, a cell-phone in their ear or a screen in front of their eyes.
Is this parallel – a severe drop off in testosterone levels and their dramatic rise in the use of technology – a mere coincidence?
The facts tell us that it is not.
Consider laptop computers …
These portable computers are designed to sit on your lap. They freed us from the confines of the desktop and allowed us to take our office wherever we wanted. It’s no wonder that they have become hugely popular.
But, there’s a downside to the convenience of the laptop. There’s a lot of heat that comes out of your portable computer. And that heat is situated directly over your groin. So, what does heat do to sperm?
It destroys it.
In addition, to the effects of heat on your sperm count, your laptop is also emitting electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation. At high levels, EMF can cause havoc to your testosterone levels. EMF radiation is measured with what is called a gauss meter. A safe level of radiation is 0.3 milligauss. So, what does the average laptop emission read on the gauss meter . . ?
That is 600 times the safe level!
And that is something to take seriously.
Even if you apply all of the other recommendations in this book and continue to use your laptop without taking safety measures, you will NEVER bring up your lagging testosterone levels.
So, short of going back to the archaic desktop, what is the solution?
It’s actually pretty simple. The EMF field is about 12 inches thick. So, to protect your body from it’s effects you need to place a 12 inch thick pillow between the laptop and your body. As well as keeping your groin clear of the EMF radiation, it will also keep the heat away from your groin.
You can also purchase an EMF shield protector to protect your body from EMF radiation.
So much, for laptops.
Even more pervasive are cell-phones.
Back in the year 2000, 28% of American men owned a cell-phone.
Today, that figure is up to 91%.
That is bad news for your sperm count. It turns out that the EMF radiation levels that come from cell phones are even greater than your laptop. That’s because cell phones are constantly sending out signals in search of towers. And it gets worse – most of us
keep our cell phones on and close to our groin (usually in our pocket) for as many as 12 hours each day. This has a disastrous effect on your sperm count.
Not only does EMF radiation reduce your sperm count. It also negatively impacts the quality and motility of your sperm.
A study, which was published in the January, 2012 issue of Fertility and Sterility magazine, focused on how radiation emitted from laptops affected sperm count. Semen samples from 29 healthy men were studied after a 4 hour exposure to WiFi radiation. Here are the results compared to a control group:
- WiFi Group: 25% of the sperm stopped swimming.
- Control Group: only 14% stopped.
- WiFi Group: 9% of the sperm showed DNA fragmentation or irreversible damage in the genetic code.
- Control Group: only 3% showed these signs.
Here is what the lead author of the study, Dr. Conrad Avendano, concluded . . .
“We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility. Our data suggest that the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality.”
You can protect your testosterone from your cell phone by following these simple guidelines:
- Do not store your cell-phone near your groin
- Purchase a microprocessor that neutralizes harmful radiation
- Store your cell-phone in a briefcase, front shirt or coat pocket